Barbara Crooker







after a study in acrylic, ink, & encaustic by Claire Giblin


I stretch my canvas tight as a sail,

size it with gesso, sand it down.

Apply layers of oils, wave

after wave of powdered

pigment, beeswax, melt them

with a torch.  I’m trying to fix

the fog’s sfumato as it speaks

in the old mother tongue:

horizon  cloud  sea.




Light, both particle and wave,

is the dark ground I’m working on,

the gouache of my mother’s death.

An empty beach after the tide recedes:

ribbed sand, striations of clouds.




The seasons change, peel off their coats.

Grief comes and goes with its shaker of salt,

pours over me without warning.  Puts items

in my grocery cart that only she would eat.




Everything is blurred, time folding back

on itself.   My palette’s a smudgy grisaille

of slate, steel, smoke.  And ochre.




It was like morning on the first day

when she passed, land dividing

from sea, air from water, soul

from body.  What remained

was a coracle, a small boat

with a canvas for its sail.





after “The Jade Mountain” by Claire Giblin

acrylic, ink, pencil on gessoed paper

for Adrianne Marcus


August, and the sun’s burners are set on high,

cicadas shrieking at noon. My friend is leaving

this floating life, cancer’s dragon claws deep

in her belly.  The cold mountain lies ahead,

but there are no maps or books to guide her.

We’re all walking the same jade highway.





Deora Dé, “God’s Tears,” in Irish

after “Guidebook,” by Claire Giblin, ink and acrylic on Yupo

for Adrianne Marcus


Sunset drags its brush strokes

across the sky, characters

in a language we do not read.

You insisted this world was it,

nothing behind the clouds.

Which are now turning claret

and lamb’s blood in the last light.

Look at the scarlet litter of God’s tears

on the gravel. Tell me where you’ve gone.





after Jade Mountain I and II, by Claire Giblin, acrylic and ink on Yupo


Sometimes, our journeys take us off the maps.  Like when

we were in Dingle, and stumbled on the Famine Cottages,

not mentioned in any guidebook, nor starred on the circuit map

though every other pile of old stones, from the 2500-year-old ring

fort to the ruined churches to the stone beehives, called clocháins,

are clearly marked.  An Gortá Mór, the great famine, tragedy not

just because most West Kerry families lived on potatoes and a bit

of milk, but because the English landlords had hearts like a cairn

of stones, refused to send relief.  Yet Muckross House had 365 windows,

one for each day of the year.  A million died, a million more went west

over the sea, never to return.  Fishermen sold their nets to pay rent,

while the ocean, teeming with fish, glistened and gleamed.  Yes,

there were cattle, and fields gold with ripening wheat, all of which

went to England to be sold.  The sky closed like an oyster shell

over their heads. Towards the end, when the suffering could no longer

be denied, food bundles were given only to those families that worked

the Hunger Roads.  Men in rags, walking skeletons, died where

they dropped, in the shingle. And there the roads stopped, too.





after a photograph by Lydia Panas


So, you want to take my picture?  I don’t care.  I’m here

with my cousins; Jessie in the center is the one you focus

on, Natalie and Amber on either side.  They’re perfect

and they know it, skinny as the trees behind us, faces

smooth as the pond beyond.  I’m the one you don’t

notice, in the left of the frame, the one with the glasses,

a little out of focus.  The camera cuts me off the way

these girls edge me out, the way they close their circle

without me.  Sure, they’re older, have boyfriends,

drive cars.  I’m in their shadow, the penumbra

of their moony light.  The silver teeth of Jessie’s

zipper, a train track straight out of town.





after “Invincible,” a photograph by Lydia Panas

“The body is the harp of the soul.”  Body World


Do you think you know me?  I’m standing

here with my sister and two cousins;  you think

we’re alike because we wear the same clothes,

black hoodies, tank tops, jeans.  You have no

idea, can’t imagine the muscles of my heart,

see the fear pumping.  You think my smooth

skin, straight hair is a road map, a ticket to ride

right out of this town.  You think I’m tough

enough for anything.  But you don’t feel

my pulse jumping like a cricket, the way

all these choices are making me crazy:  which

college?  which major?  which boy?  On

my sweatshirt, there’s a zipper, its teeth

like the cuts I make on my upper arm,

my inner thigh. I don’t know where I’m going,

but I know I want to be gone. Do you think

you can catch me in your camera?  I am butter

in a hot skillet, April snow, water in a stream;

I am gone.











Barbara Crooker’s work has appeared in journals such as:  Nimrod, The Green Mountains Review, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Tar River Review, and anthologies, such as  The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her books are Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Award (2005) and finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, winner of the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press, 2010); and Gold (the Poeima Poetry Series, Cascade Books, 2013).

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